The Vault: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction 20th Anniversary

Megadeth! Any Metalhead worth their salt knows the story of Dave Mustaine and his history – fired from Metallica days before they started recording their début, Kill Em All, Drugs, Death, Drink and much, much more. We’re not going to re-tread that much-told story AGAIN, instead it is time to celebrate here on Daily Dischord, the legacy of one of the best Metal records ever made, Countdown to Extinction.

Arriving in July of 1992 against the backdrop unrest in the United States, with the G.W. Bush vs Clinton campaign in full swing, the L.A. Riots still fresh from a few months previous and unemployment at it’s highest in 8 years, it became the perfect time for a Megadeth record to drop, huh? Mustaine was fronting MTV’s ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign and covering the election for the channel from the front line at rallys, debates, etc; a true voice for the generation, indeed.

CtE is the fifth studio album by ‘Deth and is, by quite a distance, their most commercially successful. Perhaps spurred on by the absolutely mammoth success of Metallica’s Black Album, released a year earlier on an unsuspecting world, Mustaine decided to make his own attempt at a polished, accessible, hook filled, but still heavy as hell record. Boy, did he nail it! Taking them from one of the biggest band’s in Metal (previous album Rust In Peace is a bonafide Thrash Metal classic) to an arena-filling, major player within modern Rock music.

Simplifying the structures and slowing the pace a little, but still maintaining the technicality, crunchy guitar tones, and infamous Mustaine sneer, worked wonders as this is all killer, no filler, as they say. The second album with what is largely seen as the classic ‘Deth line up of Mustaine, Ellefson, Friedman and Menza sees each musician delivering the goods as the stars aligned perfectly.

Max Norman handled producing and mixing alongside control freak Mustaine and the results are astonishing. Ask any Metalhead and I’d bet a large percentage note the overall sound of the songs, or at least one of the instruments’ tone, among their favourites. Ellefson’s metallic but weighty bass tone is a particular highlight. Friedman and Mustaine’s solos are just ridiculously tasty and memorable, while Menza shows why he is one of Metal’s most influential tub-thumpers.

To go into depth about the individual tracks would turn this from an article to a full on book but suffice to say that from the wicked drum fill that starts ‘Skin ‘O My Teeth’ to the closing, and arguably best track ‘Ashes In My Mouth’, there isn’t a dull moment. Listen to the aforementioned first song’s extended guitar solo and try not to shake your head in disbelief every time, indeed, like I do. Of course, CTE also houses Mega-hit ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ featuring THAT riff. This song still fills rock club floors twenty years on and that’s no mean feat. You have the delicate but dark ‘Foreclosure Of A Dream’, the twisted genius of ‘Sweating Bullets’ and all out thrasher ‘High Speed Dirt’, to name just a few.

With this package you get the album of course, complete with postcards of each band member, a CD of a full set from the CTE tour in San Francisco (which is superb), and a pretty cool poster of band mascot, Vic Rattlehead. All this presented in a cool, little top opening box.

Even if you own the original or the 2004 remaster, it is very much worth shelling out the money just to make you re-visit this monster again. At the close of last year, the band went out around America for two months playing the album in it’s entirety. Join me, if you will, in praying that Dave brings this classic to our shores.

Posted by Ben Timpson | Features, The Vault